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Modeling water flow and bacterial transport in undisturbed lysimeters under irrigations of dairy shed effluent and water using HYDRUS-1D

Abstract

HYDRUS-1D was used to simulate water flow and leaching of fecal coliforms and bromide (Br) through six undisturbed soil lysimeters (70 cm depth by 50 cm diameter) under field conditions. Dairy shed effluent (DSE) spiked with Br was applied to the lysimeters, which contained fine sandy loam layers. This application was followed by fortnightly spray or flood water irrigation. Soil water contents were measured at four soil depths over 171 days, and leachate was collected from the bottom. The post-DSE period simulations yielded a generally decreased saturated water content compared to the pre-DSE period, and an increased saturated hydraulic conductivity and air-entry index, suggesting that changes in soil hydraulic properties (e.g. via changes in structure) can be induced by irrigation and seasonal effects. The single-porosity flow model was successful in simulating water flow under natural climatic conditions and spray irrigation. However, for lysimeters under flood irrigation, when the effect of preferential flow paths becomes more significant, the good agreement between predicted and observed water contents could only be achieved by using a dual-porosity flow model. Results derived from a mobile-immobile transport model suggest that compared to Br, bacteria were transported through a narrower pore-network with less mass exchange between mobile and immobile water zones. Our study suggests that soils with higher topsoil clay content and soils under flood irrigation are at a high risk of bacteria leaching through preferential flow paths. Irrigation management strategies must minimize the effect of preferential flow to reduce bacterial leaching from land applications of effluent.

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